Denying unemployment benefits to a nurse fired for refusing a flu vaccine for secular reasons violated her First Amendment right to freedom of expression, where hospital policy allowed employees to skip the shot on religious grounds, a N.J. appeals court held on Thursday in a precedential case.

The court reversed the state Department of Labor’s Board of Review, which had found that the vaccination policy of June Valent’s former employer, Hackettstown Community Hospital, was reasonable and that her refusal to comply with it amounted to “simple misconduct” connected to her job that justified disqualifying her from unemployment benefits.

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